Adulthood is hard; that is something that no parent ever prepares you for. I don’t ever remember my mom and dad putting me on their knee growing up and saying in a soothing voice, “Don’t worry, Liz, your childhood is one thing (because it wasn’t the easiest socially – I was bullied, teased, and definitely not the most popular girl in my school class), but adulthood isn’t easy. Don’t expect for it to be paved with gold and for opportunities to be made for you.” Nope, no recollection of that moment at all, not even a vision or daydream of such a moment, and boy can this only child daydream as good as the rest of them.
Adulthood involves a lot of upheaval – cutting of ties, cutting of flesh, cutting of nerves, and the cutting of packing tape as cardboard boxes are filled with only the essentials in preparation for a 3000 mile move from my New Jersey emotional home (definitely not a physical home at times) to my brand new home in San Francisco, California. I don’t have a new place yet, and the search has been, shall we say, less than easy. God’s call to ministry doesn’t come with dental or health benefits, let alone enough zeros in the paycheck to always live where the call is, and this is one of the challenges I’m currently facing – San Francisco’s cost of living far outweighs my price range (by $500-$1000/month), and given that roommates are not a possibility for me, asking for some help from family has become the only option. Again, adulthood is hard, and asking for help is even harder. But God is even bigger, and willing to bridge the gap of even this proud heart.
Packing boxes has forced me to think about the last three years, the relationships and memories attached to each object being thrown into each pile (Take, Leave, Give Away, Sell, Throw Out, Store, etc.), and how saying goodbye will be heartbreaking, if only for now. Obviously, no goodbye is truly forever – reunions, weddings, ordinations happen, and thanks to social media, people are able to stay more and more closely connected than ever, although social media is definitely NO replacement for human contact in a relationship. And so it is with the tearing of tape and the throwing of memories into boxes, I think of all the “see you laters” I’ll have to say in the weeks to come, not knowing when I’ll replace them with “how I’ve missed yous” and “what’s new with yous” in person.
These goodbyes I am having to offer up to my closest friends, some of whom have become family, harken back to the faith I call my own, and even my Christ, whose disciples and closest followers were in a similar position at one point, way back when. Gathered around a table one night, the followers of Jesus the Christ were forced to listen to their beloved teacher tell of how he would soon be leaving them, not forever, but only for a short while. The period of time likely didn’t matter to these heartbroken men of new and fresh faith, who had just bonded with this man of incredible and miraculous potential, who called himself Jesus, and related himself to God the Father, and now, he would be leaving them with the Gospel and the responsibility of preaching it to all the nations and all corners of creation. And yet, Christ encourages them to not be troubled, but to continue to believe – to believe in him, but also to believe that this was not the end of the story, the end of their relationship.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so there I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him…” (John 14:1-7, NRSV)
Christ encouraged his disciples to understand that they had already seen God, been in relationship with God, and known God, and that this relationship will not end, despite Christ’s departure from them. The heartbreak is real, the pain and despair over losing a loved one to distance. To the disciples, Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection feels like a death, as their beloved teacher is no longer physically with them – to guide them, nurture them, and witness to them each and every day. And yet, Christ’s departure marked a series of new “hellos” for these disciples as Christ did not command them to sit and mourn his departure, but to continue his ministry, preaching the Gospel and message of God to the ends of the Earth. They were not to be sedentary in mourning, but to be proactive in joy; their salvation, reconciliation to God and renewed faith means living in new relationship and hospitality.
Adulthood is like this, and my move feels a lot like this. It means the rending of old and current relationships, and thus my heart in the process. Old relationships are safe and sound, and comfortable, but hold me in the present, ultimately preventing me from breaking into the future – rather, the future that is San Francisco, chaplaincy, my ministry, and all that God holds for me out there. Adulthood means trusting that God might be calling me to make some tough decisions, asking me to move in a different direction, and even 3000 miles away from the people I call family, the community I call home, and the church that feels most comfortable and safe. Nothing about adulthood is easy, and nothing about breaking the physical bonds of safety is either; yet beyond the goodbyes lie a whole other set of hellos, new nice to meet yous, new getting to know yous. None of these will replace the old, seasoned, familiar, worn in and comfortable; they will just add to them, color them and make them more valuable and rich, and even better than before.
While I hate packing, I hate throwing things out, giving things away, and selling my things, God has placed a call on my life to go and serve, just as Christ commanded his disciples to go, serve and preach the Gospel at the last supper. I don’t necessarily get to choose where God calls, nor do I get to choose where my chosen family lies – when God calls He calls, and all I can do is hold on, pick up the packing tape, and lovingly hug those I’ve bonded with before heading off to the next stage of my life.
Adulthood hasn’t been easy so far, but no one ever said it would be; then again, no one ever told me it would be as amazing, wondrous, or odd, to borrow the words of Martin Copenhaver. To follow the calling of God, truly and honestly, means never fully putting down roots, but instead living by the seat of God’s pants, not my own. A theologically crude (and rather unladylike metaphor), and yet, it is perfectly fitting, since in three weeks, with only the necessities packed in the back of a truck, headed to a storage facility for a few weeks, I’ll be leaving on a jet plane for NorCal to look at places, placing my faith solely on God that this is truly in fact where I am supposed to be, not where I have desired to be since the summer of 2010, when a young 21 year old ginger-haired and freckled, naive WASPY girl from Westchester county went for the first time on her own to a land far far away to see if she was, in fact called to this thing called ministry. And to ministry, she certainly is called.
“Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and to which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord christ, which he will bring about at the right time – he who is the blessed and only sovereign, the king of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:12-15, NRSV)